I have mental illnesses. In order to combat the stigma I want to explain my personal struggle with it and encourage others to seek help.
Trigger warning: discussion of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
I suffer from anxiety, OCD, depression, and bipolar II disorder. It has taken my entire life to be properly diagnosed since many of these types of mental illnesses are connected. As a child I remember always being anxious about everything and experiencing huge signs of OCD, including moving the pots and pans in the cabinet to an exact placement and feeling like my mother would die if I didn’t adjust the doorway exactly four times every night before I went to sleep. As I grew older I figured out ways to work through my OCD symptoms, but even today I still get these feelings that things need to be moved or touched or ordered a certain way or else bad things will happen.
I was diagnosed with depression in college when classes became very stressful and I started to have suicidal ideation. My ideation wouldn’t normally center around the actual true desire to kill myself, but rather the concepts of suicide and obsession over the planning. I would get these intrusive thoughts that I couldn’t turn off that revolved the letters I would write, how I would leave my assets and cryptocurrency to Laura, what order I would publish my messages on social media, etc. I found out later that this is likely is connected to my OCD.
During my first job at USAA, I casually explained these intrusive thoughts to my manager. I was so used to these ideations by this point that the conversation was eerily nonchalant. The next day I was called into the HR office where they took away my badge and work laptop. I freaked out because work was my life and I thought they were firing me. They told me about how they cared about my mental health and were forcing me to take time off to seek medical professionals. During the leave, USAA paid me without me having to take any personal days. I am so grateful they did this because it allowed me to take time to get on track to finding the right therapist and psychologist without worrying about money.
Unfortunately the chemical imbalances I have in my brain mean that I have to constantly work towards controlling the symptoms of bipolar II. I get so much work done during my manic times and can’t leave bed during depressive episodes. This morning I cried because for the first time in a long time I was having suicidal ideation again I couldn’t control. I felt like a failure that I couldn’t make the thoughts go away. I have a wonderful spouse and great therapist who talked me through things and I am doing better, but days like this are really difficult.
Over the past few years I have visited multiple therapists/psychiatrists and been on over a dozen different combinations of medications. It is a hard and painful process to cycle through different people and medicines looking for answers and relief. However, once you find the right combination of healthcare providers that understand you and prescribe you the right medication it makes a world of difference. What I have cannot be cured, but it can be managed with work and support of those around me. I am thankful to have a spouse, friends, and co-workers who care about me and support me when I am at low points in my mental illness. My wife Laura has been my biggest support and I love her so much.
If you are reading this and think you may suffer from a mental illness know that you don’t have to fight it alone and there are many paths you can take to control the symptoms. It is very freeing to talk to people you trust about it and start to find solutions. Therapy and medications have helped me tremendously, but it is different for different people. If you don’t have healthcare or money know that there are options that are low cost or free in most places.
If you message me I would be happy to look for those options with you and talk with you about mental health (see the Contact page). If you are an employer make sure that you have a good mental health policy in place like USAA did for those times when your employees are struggling. Let’s end the stigma of mental illness.
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